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10 Activities to Do with Dad for a Meaningful Father’s Day

If you’ve gotten into a routine of alternating between golf balls and ties with golf balls on them for Dad for Father’s Day, maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit and bring a little meaning back into the holiday.

Relationships aren’t made up of greeting cards sandwiched between socket wrenches all held together by funny socks. The backbone of relationships are forged by shared memories, new and old, which can sustain even the most long-distance relationship. 

Instead of resorting to the usual checkout aisle bin of Father’s Day gifts, try one of these activities for a change. This could be the most meaningful Father’s Day on record.

Get Him to Tell Stories

Even though you’ve lived your whole life with your dad, he lived a whole other lifetime long before you ever came on the scene. Most of us only know bits and pieces of the man that carries the father title. 

Greater Good Magazine says that meaningful stories about our families that demonstrate how they’ve been able to get through both good times and bad can make children more resilient, better adjusted, and more successful in school. From asking about where they lived when they were a kid to asking about their relationships with family members who have passed away, and more, there’s no end to the stories Dad has tucked away, just waiting for someone to ask.

Tell Dad Your Own Favorite Stories

A child sees and experiences their world quite differently from their parents. There are probably things you remember about your father that he’s never given a second thought. Share with Dad your favorite memories together. Even the most mundane moments, like watching your dad talk with his buddies around a campfire, were impressionable memories that shaped who you became. Tell him so!

Walk around His Old Stomping Grounds with Him

Whether near or far, an adventure to the place your father grew up or spent a formative season of his life is ripe with bonding opportunities. When you step back into the spaces you used to live, it’s also a step back into time, bringing back long-forgotten memories.

Take a Hike in a Park

Image: Joice Kelly

Sometimes our family holidays end up with all of us congregated around a television set, zoned out and overstuffed from whatever BBQ or roasted bird we all just consumed. Sure, you can bond by watching sports games together, but if you’re really looking to connect, turn off the tube and take a hike.

Nature provides both the space and the fresh air to talk or simply walk together, being in each other’s presence and God’s natural cathedral. If Dad has mobility issues, there are plenty of parks with paved trails that he is bound to enjoy.

Visit Your Favorite Memory Together

I have half a dozen or more touchstone memories with my dad that I return to in my mind again and again. Instead of just visiting those places in your memory, take your dad to a place that mattered to you a lot when you were a kid, somewhere you built a memory with him. This could be the restaurant down the street where you always went for breakfast, or if you’re feeling especially adventurous, recreate a road trip you took together. It won’t be long before you’re both saying, “Remember when…”

Make His Favorite Meal

Every meal is an occasion for communion—all we have to do is invite the holy into our mundane spaces. The same is true on Father’s Day. Skip the backyard barbecue (unless that is his favorite meal) and pick plates you know he’ll love for dinner this Father’s Day. Maybe there are meals you remember enjoying together in your childhood. Nostalgia is baked into those dishes—bring ‘em out and serve ‘em up!

Do a Puzzle Together

Okay, okay, okay. I love puzzles. No matter what list you’re referencing for activities to do with another person, you can bet I’ll have “do a puzzle” on it.

I love puzzles because it’s another activity, like hiking, that gives you something to do with your body and opens up space and time for conversation to happen without awkward pauses or long silences. It is a sacred space for relationships to deepen and solidify together, and it gives everyone participating a sense of accomplishment when it’s completed.

Bonus points if you can find a new puzzle that captures something that he loves or something you both enjoy together.

Take Him to a Place He’s Always Wanted to Visit

My dad was pretty intentional about taking us to different places when we were kids, but I’m certain that we didn’t get around to visiting all of them. Make this Father’s Day the one where you sit around the dining room table and dream about the places he hasn’t been… and then begin your covert operation to plan the trip.

Visit Places That Are Significant Heritage Locations

The vast majority of us come from somewhere else—we’re Chinese American or recent immigrants from Eastern Europe or originally from upstate New York or moved from the city out here to the suburbs. Even if it’s just a generation back, find out where your family has been and go there. Explore your ancestor’s roots. Visit old graveyards. Find the places they worked, the land they farmed, the churches they worshiped in. If a forefather served in a war, visit old battleground sites. Look for old addresses of great-grandparents and see if their homes are still standing.

We are made from the places we came from… even if it’s been decades since our family has set foot on those grounds. Geography matters. Go explore, and take Dad with you!

Make a Personalized Card instead of Buying a Card

The cost of greeting cards seems to keep going up, and as easy as it is to buy a card off the shelf, they never capture quite the right sentiment. Try making a personalized card this year instead. It doesn’t have to be fancy or crafty—Dad has been dealing with your “it’s the thought that counts” attempts forever. Truly, the effort you put into saying how you feel will go leaps and bounds above anything Hallmark can generate.

If you need some help coming up with just the right thing to say, try using these prompts to get you going:

  • The five words I’d use to describe my dad are:
  • My three favorite memories from my childhood with dad are:
  • The verse of Scripture that most reminds me of my dad is:
  • The verse of Scripture I think my dad needs to hear the most right now is:
  • The song I feel captures my relationship with Dad is:
  • Whenever I hear this song I immediately remember that time when:
  • I will never forget watching [ insert shared sports team / favorite movies here ] with you. Those were some of the best times…
  • Remember that time we… That meant a lot to me, and I’ll never forget that.
  • Thank you for [ insert the positive traits you feel like you got from your dad ]

No matter what you have to say to Dad, nothing says “I love you” more than your presence and time, and simply saying those three words. Often, that’s more than enough.

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